Dozens of volunteers from a Greek Orthodox church outside New York City returned to Midtown last week to distribute food, clothing and toiletries to the city’s homeless.
Volunteers arrived with a seven-car caravan from which they served chicken, vegetables, rice and other snacks while offering winter clothing donations to hundreds of passersby.
For more than a decade, the group from Holy Trinity Church in New Rochelle has come to 33rd Street outside of Penn Station for its monthly “Soup Run.”
Despina Kartson, an NY-based marketing executive, author and philanthropist, leads her fellow congregants on each soup run — which takes place whether rain or shine.
“We show respect and compassion to our guests on the street and offer them a bit of sustenance for their bodies and non-judgmental conversations to nourish their hearts,” Kartson said.
She added: “We gave a woman a pair of socks and she told us how happy she was to receive them, noting that she would be able to put on a clean pair of socks the next day.”
Kartson published a book about the program called “Last Night’s Soup Run.” The book tells the stories of the many homeless men and women who have benefitted from the church’s monthly visits.
Explaining the title, Kartson said that the morning after every soup run she sends an email called “Last Night’s Soup Run” to volunteers and supporters. In her email, she summarizes highlights from the previous evening, offering glimpses into the lives of the homeless served.
But this movement has not only turned into a book.
Kartson’s volunteer experience led her to found Philoxenia, a charity which provides funding and support for organizations that feed the hungry and care for the homeless.
She said that, even after 10 years, the church’s volunteers have never been asked to leave their monthly spot on the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue.
“Police and security guards have stopped by to see what we were doing,” she said. “And they have never asked us to pack up our tables or to move our cars.”
From the latest soup run, Kartson recalled a special moment of gratitude involving a father and son.
“At the end of the evening, three men – Jersey, Naz and Poppy – approached us looking for food and any warm clothing we had to offer,” Kartson said. “We were out of food but gave them granola bars, hats, socks and warm vests. Poppy and Naz are father and son. The three live under a tarp near 33rd street and were extremely grateful for what we gave them.”
The volunteers will return for the next soup run on Thursday, February 27.
Kartson said that the group needs donations of backpacks, gloves and size 11, 12 and 16 men’s sneakers. Her book “Last Night’s Soup Run” is available on Amazon and all proceeds benefit Philoxenia.
During Holy Trinity’s September 26, 2019 “Soup Run,” Pappas Post Publisher Gregory Pappas interviewed Kartson and met some of the people that her group serves.
Watch the interview
Filmed, edited and directed by Julia Lockshin
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